Why these franchise veterans started afresh with Mad Mex

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Inside Franchise Business: Linda and Jim Ainsworth, Mad Mex franchiseesSeasoned franchisees Jim and Linda Ainsworth head up the Mad Mex team in Albury, NSW. While they are just one year into running this fast food favourite, the pair have notched up almost 30 years with brands such as Subway and Healthy Life. 

How did you get into franchising in the first place?

We’ve always wanted to own our own business. Franchising is a great way to own your own business while having the support of an established brand and network.

Why did you choose the Subway brand to begin a restaurant franchise with?

We started with Subway in the early 2000s. We saw Subway as an emerging brand that really fitted with our values and healthy lifestyle. Recently we felt the Mad Mex brand values amplified the fresh and healthy ethos and so joining the Mad Mex family was a no brainer.

Our initial goal was to own and operate two Subway restaurants. We still laugh about that because we readjusted our goals a number of times as opportunities were presented. Before we knew it, we had eight restaurants!

What lessons have you learned from the multi-unit experience?

Don’t expand too quickly ... easy to say now but looking back we weren’t properly prepared. I describe it as "growing pains". You need experienced people and at the time we didn’t have the critical numbers we needed.

Sure, we got the restaurants opened and operating but it probably took another 12 months to have them operating efficiently.

Also think and plan big from the start, put the systems in place that will allow you to expand and operate more than one store. These are lessons we’ve learned and are hoping to implement at Mad Mex.

What have been the keys to working together?

Communication and trust are important in any business partnership and they have always been incredibly important for us. Fortunately, we both share the same values and are prepared to do the hard work.

What was the catalyst for the change after all this time to the Mad Mex brand?

The market is always changing and often very quickly. We recognised that and felt we needed to think about change.

Also, I had another franchisee knocking on my door to buy my Subway stores so we took the opportunity.

Looking around we believed the Mad Mex brand values were very much in line with ours. We have always wanted to offer fresh, healthy food to customers and we saw that Mad Mex provided this option. All food is prepared daily, including our guacamole and pico de gallo.

The key to any business, I believe, is quality and we like that Mad Mex has a truly great product.

What goals have you set for the new venture?

Our main goal was to establish Mad Mex in a competitive marketplace. It isn’t easy to build any new business and takes time and effort. Now, having reached the one-year milestone we are beginning to see the rewards.

To do this we also needed great people. Our current crew have become very much like family as Linda and I work with them side by side every day and get to know them personally. For some it’s their first real workplace so we are happy to provide that opportunity and enable them to be valued members of our team.

How does Healthy Life fit into all this?

Mad Mex and Healthy Life share a lot in terms of values. Healthy Life is where we started, health and wellbeing is what caught our interest so to be able to incorporate our work with our personal interests was a real bonus.

We thoroughly enjoyed being in a business that offered value to the community. As our first business some nearly 30 years ago we believed that going with a brand who could assist and guide us would be beneficial. Healthy Life at the time wasn’t a huge brand but fortunately had some great people and looking back we probably owe them a lot.

This new store with Mad Mex and our current team feels a lot like starting back then and we’re looking forward to growing with the brand.

How have you managed your time so you can be involved in the community?

Our local community has been great supporting us throughout the years, so we make sure to make time to give back. We have provided sponsorship and ongoing support to many different groups. I’m fortunate to have a business partner I can trust which has allowed me at times to be actively involved in local sporting groups.

What have been the biggest challenges and benefits of being a franchisee?

Clearly the benefits have been the support and expertise provided by the franchisor. The team at Mad Mex have been very approachable and accessible. We recently attended the annual Mad Mex conference which provided insight as to how the stake holders, especially franchisees are really feeling. It was the first time I had met many and it was welcoming, relaxed and friendly. There is a real benefit in everybody working together.

As regards challenges, all franchisees will tell you that you have a lot of rules to follow, and some people don’t cope with this. I do believe that if you are going to invest in a franchise use their expertise and stick with the plan, there is little benefit in trying to change something that already works.

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